In 2005, the Wilderness Medical Society (WMS) pursued a concept in wilderness medicine education originally created by James R. Liffrig MD for the express purpose of offering the WMS membership the opportunity to gain a valuable and recognizable broad based education in Wilderness Medicine. The Academy of Wilderness Medicine, created by the WMS as the governing arm of the Society’s educational endeavor, has overseen this project, known as the Fellowship of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. Since the first Fellows’ class in 2007, over 150 people have completed their Fellowship of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine, and the Academy had over 690 Fellow Candidates as of the summer of 2010.
By all measures the Fellowship of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine has been a success for the WMS and has evolved into an invigorating educational activity for the WMS membership. The success of the Academy and Fellowship does give rise to a new challenge for the Wilderness Medical Society. Succinctly, given the number of WMS members that will complete their Fellowship in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine in the next five years, how do we continue to meet the developmental needs of our ever growing and educated membership?
In the original Fellowship proposal by James Liffrig MD, Dr. Liffrig proposed the development of an advance degree in Wilderness Medicine, beyond that of a Fellow, that included specialization within the scope of Wilderness Medicine under the direction of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. Though the development of the advanced degree was not undertaken at that time, it was considered a natural and future enhancement to the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. Now, as we enter our fifth year of the Academy and Fellowship Program, the Academy oversight committee and Board of Directors have approved an advanced degree track in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine’s Fellowship Program.
Creating a Master’s Degree-level program in Wilderness Medicine however does not come without challenges. The WMS membership is a mixture of healthcare providers and academics from a variety of disciplines and educational backgrounds throughout the world. Given this population, can an educational program be created that would be rigorous enough to meet the educational needs and expectations of our Society and flexible enough to encompass the scope of Wilderness Medicine and be available to all our members throughout the world?
During the July 2009 Annual Meeting in Snowmass, the WMS Board of Directors approved a concept paper detailing the structure of a specialized educational program in Wilderness Medicine. This new Master’s Degree Program offered by the Academy of Wilderness Medicine has, and continues to be, beta tested over the last year and was announced to the Wilderness Medical Society’s membership during the Snowmass 2010 Fellow’s Convocation at the 2010 Annual Meeting. In contrast to the Fellow’s Program, which is a broad-based or “Baccalaureate” program, this new educational program is a specific area of study or “Masters”-level program. It is therefore referred to as the Master’s Fellow Degree Program. In creating this new Master's program, an effort was made to consider adult learning theories and Kaufman’s “seven principals to guide teaching practice” that combines adult learning theories to help create a program that could fulfill the needs of the WMS membership (Kaufman D., Applying educational theory in practice. Brit Med J. 2003;326:213-216). The Kaufman’s seven principals to guide teaching practice are as follows:
Through utilization of adult learning theories via Kaufman’s seven principals, the Master's program will fulfill the needs of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine and the WMS membership. The following is a brief description of this new and innovative program.
The Master's Fellow degree program is an advanced, post-fellow certification that was created to denote individuals who have excelled in a specific sub- discipline within the scope of Wilderness Medicine in addition to being Fellows of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. The Masters program is an attempt to:
1. Further the academic programs of the WMS.
2. Allow additional academic enrichment opportunities for WMS members.
3. Create a group of experts in specific sub-disciplines for utilization in teaching, lecturing and research development.
4. Create a cadre of ever evolving leaders for the WMS to utilize.
The Master's Fellow curriculum is divided into three parts:
The Master's Fellow Candidate is asked to select an area of concentration. These can be (but are not limited to) one of the 16 sub-disciplines for the Fellow candidates. For sub-disciplines that are not part of the 16 sub-disciplines (Required Topics & Electives) – they will be evaluated and granted or denied on an individual basis.
It is expected that the Masters Candidate will attend as many WMS/AWM-sponsored or affiliated lectures as possible regarding his/her selected subdivision. However, during the Master's Fellow Candidate’s time of study not all of these lectures may be offered. As a result, the fellow and his or her advisor will identify critical publications for the fellow to study from.
Academic and Scholarly Activity
It is required of the Master's Fellow Candidate to complete a scholarly activity. This activity will be focused on their given area of concentration and could also be in the form of a formal lecture or forum or lecture series given at one of the WMS meeting. The activity can also be in the form of a manuscript fit for publication. (Examples could be, but are not limited to, a literature review or original research which could be presented at a WMS meeting either in the research abstract or poster presentations.)
It is an expectation that the Master's Fellow Candidate would have excellent hands-on Wilderness Medicine skills. To help hone and demonstrate these skills, Master's Fellow Candidates would be expected to assist with the preconference workshops such as WALS and AWLS as provided by NOLS, WMI, WMA etc. Additionally, this requirement could be met by leading small WMS sponsored experiential trips (For our example - a small adventure trip sponsored by the WMS).
To begin a Master's Fellowship designation program a candidate must:
Candidates must complete the Master's Fellow program within a 5-year period. Like most advanced degrees, the Masters Fellow is primarily a self-education program. To ensure that the candidate is achieving his or her milestones, the use of an advisor is required.
Advisors will help the candidate to work through their Master's Fellow program. Advisors should be experts in their field and well known Wilderness Medicine faculty members. Any of the WMS faculty may serve as a Fellow Advisor. A list of current and preceding faculty can be given for help in identification of an advisor. This said however, an advisor from outside the WMS can be utilized if he or she has the experience in both the sub-discipline and in Wilderness Medicine to be considered at a WMS faculty level. All advisors must have their resume submitted to the Academy and must be approved and registered as an advisor by the Academy.
The advisors will be responsible for providing the Candidate for Master's Fellow direction on what literature to review, specific texts that would be appropriate to help the Candidate grow his/her fund of knowledge in the chosen concentration area.
Wilderness Medical Society Master Fellow Academic Portfolio
The Advisor is the best judge of the Candidate but, to make sure the experience is universal and more or less equal across the board – the candidate will be asked to keep a Wilderness Medicine academic portfolio. The portfolio will contain the following information:
Once the portfolio is submitted, the Academy Oversight Committee will review the portfolio to assure that all the aspects of the Master's Fellow Program have been addressed and to assure that a Masters level experience was obtained. The Academy Oversight Committee will vote on passage and with a majority vote the Candidate can then be awarded a Master's Fellow Degree.
Faculty Advisor Guidelines
As a Faculty Advisor for a Master's Fellow Candidate, the following are some of the expectations for you and the Candidate: